Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Old Dominion Law Demonstrates Renewed Commitment to Green Government Buildings

Jeremy Sigmon, LEED® AP BD+C
Director, Technical Policy
U.S. Green Building Council

As I mentioned in my last blog, there are some wonderful advancements in the Southeast that need celebrating. Here’s an update from the Commonwealth of Virginia that keeps the state on the leader board.

Green Building in the Southeast (Part Two)
With a stroke of the pen last week, Governor Bob McDonnell signed legislation that will ensure that Virginia remains among the list of pacesetting states that are leading by example and building green public buildings. The High Performance Buildings Act, effective July 1 of this year, is an important next step in the Commonwealth’s continued appreciation for government buildings that are designed to not only use less energy, water and other resources, but also provide dividends back to Virginians in the form of healthy buildings, locally-sourced materials and operational cost savings.

Gov. McDonnell approves the High Performance Buildings Act
The benefits of green public buildings are many, but at the end of the day it’s about leadership. Commitments like these (as found in Virginia and 22 other states) demonstrate responsible stewardship of tax dollars while planting important seeds for growing the state economy. It’s this kind of leadership that sets entire markets on course to achieve a greater potential. For example, Virginia currently holds the #7 spot for the total number of LEED projects (392 certified and 1137 registered).

Green government buildings are nothing new to the Commonwealth. Virginia holds the #5 spot for most LEED buildings owned or occupied by state government. The course was first set by former Governor Kaine’s 2007 executive order, “Energy Efficiency in State Government” (or EO #48).

Since that 2007 EO, Virginia Senator Chap Petersen (Fairfax) worked with USGBC chapters and others on an annual attempt to turn this commitment to high-performing green government buildings into a more formal state policy. Those efforts garnered little momentum in the legislature, compelling then Governor Kaine to expand upon the 2007 EO, which was set to expire in June of 2011. In 2009, Governor Kaine issued a more comprehensive order, “Greening of State Government” (or EO #82).

Critical to the bill’s passage this time around, Delegate Chris Jones (Suffolk) sponsored a version of the bill in the House of Delegates with Governor McDonnell on his side. The Governor and the Delegate shared a common vision for government buildings that set the right example for saving energy, water and money. The new law requires public buildings to be built to the Virginia Energy Conservation and Environmental Standards (VEES), first established by the earlier executive orders. The VEES establishes a set of criteria for healthier, more efficient and lower-impact public buildings and offers LEED as an important compliance pathway, evidenced by the nearly 30 LEED buildings owned and occupied by the Commonwealth (and many more in the pipeline).

One day after McDonnell approved this Act, Governor Jerry Brown of California took a similar act of leadership in strengthening the State of California’s already impressive commitment to green public buildings – both new and existing (read more here). When it comes to accelerating the green building marketplace, we're seeing leadership from coast to coast. We commend Governor McDonnell, Delegate Jones and other legislators for their work to leave a legacy of high performance buildings in the Old Dominion state.

And we congratulate and applaud our coalition of Virginia chapters of USGBC (James River Green Building Council, USGBC-Southwest Virginia, the Hampton Roads Green Building Council and USGBC-National Capital Region) for their tireless advocacy work in helping achieve this important milestone!

Photo courtesy of the Office of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell


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